Introduction by Skip Cohen
The fun of this industry is the common love we all have for the craft, but there's a second aspect that always amazes me. It's the willingness for so many great photographers to help each other and David Maynard sets the stage for that point with this guest post, along with helping me make one more terrific point...
It doesn't matter what your specialty is, the challenge is having the skill set when you need it. You might be a wedding photographer and having no interest in chasing a red eye tree frog, but there's a need to shoot macro at every wedding with scene-setters of the flowers, cake, wedding rings and the list goes on and on. You won't get the shot without understanding the technique or great glass!
David is definitely somebody who should be on your radar. You'll find a lot of stunning images on his website and some great videos on his YouTube Channel. Check out his macro video in the Tamron Theater and this month the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC USD is the featured lens of the month!
As a life long macro and nature photography enthusiast, I can tell you that if I were asked to compile a list of all the tips, tricks, techniques, and possible gear choices for good macro photos, it would likely turn into a rather thick book pretty quickly.
But recently someone who is just starting out asked me to strip the gear subject to its core, and describe what I personally consider to be the most important choice in gear for macro work.
My answer was of course, “it’s the glass”.
No matter how well practiced the techniques, or how good the supporting gear, I believe that if the lens is sub-par, the odds are stacked that your images will be sub-par. This is true in all genres of photography really, but in the macro world where everything is small and highly magnified, the shortcomings or faults of an inadequate lens are greatly magnified as well.
After my years of trial and error with numerous types and configurations of gear including the typical adapters, stacking diopter rings, etc., I have found what delivers the best macro images for me and my style of work, is a prime dedicated macro lens.
Currently, my go-to and heavily favored lens for macro is the Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di VC 1:1 Macro lens. This is so for many reasons, not the least of which is that the lens is a Di (Digitally integrated). Tamrons Di lenses are specifically designed to be used with our digital sensors rather than film as many others still are. Macro photographers tend to obsess over a deeper focus (Depth Of Field) already, because with the super close macro shots the DOF can be paper-thin. The last thing we need is an unnecessary softening of our images due to using a lens designed for film. To me this seems like buying a high performance Porsche, then pulling it with a pony.
Of course this lens also offers me an insanely fast focus, and strong stabilization, (VC - vibration compensation) which helps dramatically when chasing down a critter for a close up, tack sharp handheld macro image.
The three images in this article were captured handheld, using my Tamron 90mm Di VC on a 5D Mark ll body. The Red Eyed Tree Frog (Agalychnis callidryas) and the Amazon Milk Frog (Trachycephalus resinifictrix) photos were both lit with a Nissin MG 8000 flash with a Rogue Flashbender XL for diffusion, lighting off camera. This gave me an exposure of F/11, 1/100th sec and F/20, 1/40th sec respectively. The Red Eye is approximately 1.5 inches long, and the young Milk Frog was around ¾ inch long.
The tiny Jumping Spider (Family Salticidae) was lit with a Nissin MF18 Macro Ringlight attached to the Tamron 90mm and set to TTL metering for an exposure of F/20, 1/60th sec. The Spiders actual size is around 3/8 inch.
Of course, the lens consideration is just the beginning. Your next consideration could be using/mastering light to take control of your DOF and create sculpted macro images. But that is a discussion for another time. For now, get out there and capture and enjoy the beauty of nature.